The Choteau High School boys basketball varsity teams rolls into the post-season this weekend at the District 1B boys and girls tournament at the Cut Bank High School gymnasium Feb. 16-18.
Seeding for this week’s tournament was complicated because four teams were tied with a 6-4 season record. Shelby, with a 7-3 record, earned the first-place seeding and the regular season conference title.
The District 1B athletic directors used the Taylor Point System to break the four-way tie, based on the points they scored against each other during the regular season. Choteau won the second-place seed with plus three Taylor points; Rocky Boy took third with minus one Taylor point; and Fairfield took fourth with minus two Taylor points.
Cut Bank, 5-5, is the fifth-place seed and Conrad, 0-10, is the sixth-place seed.
Shelby and Choteau have byes in the opening round of the tournament. Fairfield will play Cut Bank Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and Rocky Boy will play Conrad at 8 p.m.
Tournament action will resume on Friday at 1 p.m., when Shelby will play the winner of the Fairfield-Cut Bank game. Choteau will play the winner of the Rocky Boy-Conrad game at 2:30 p.m. The winner of those two games will meet up in the championship game on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Loser-out action will start on Saturday at 8:30 a.m.
Choteau Coach Matt Luedtke said he was pleased that the Bulldogs secured the second seed in a season that started out very well, lost some steam in the middle and has been charging back in the latter third of the season. The Bulldogs, 11-7 overall, are going to be working hard in practice this week to prepare for tough competition at the district tournament. “It is tournament time and anything can happen,” Luedtke said.
Practice this week will emphasize coming to each game fully prepared to play and playing Choteau’s style of basketball.
“I’m just so proud of the boys for showing courage and moxie,” Luedtke said of the season. With seven losses and a very young team (just two seniors, Darrien Garcia and Wyatt Allen), Luedtke said the boys have been working very hard to improve on their already-strong offense and to take a big step up on defense.
Choteau’s younger players like Kyler Crabtree, a freshman, and sophomores Trenton Durocher, Garret Yeager, Kolby Kovatch and Sayer Patton, have all had areas that they needed to drill down on and improve, and they have stepped up to the plate.
Durocher, Yeager and Crabtree are all playing with much more confidence on both offense and defense, and Patton, already a stand-out offensive player, is showing how effective he can be as a defender too, Luedtke said. Kovatch, who rotates in off the bench, plays a scrappy role as a defender, making steals happen and grabbing rebounds.
Starters Wyatt Allen and Jonathan Moore have worked hard to bring their best game to the court as well. Allen has also improved his play as a defender, jousting for rebounds, getting steals and blocking shots, Luedtke said, adding that he is averaging 10 points and nine rebounds a game late in the season.
The Choteau boys won four out of their last five games of the season and he said he credits the kids for having faith in the program, playing hard and seeing positive results. “We have kids who can do some really, really special things,” he said.
One of those players is certainly Darrien Garcia, whose point-guard play and dramatic inside and outside shooting make him a weapon who cannot be overlooked. Even when other teams are double and triple-guarding him, he shows his value in getting his teammates open shots so they can do damage when he is being shut down, Luedtke said.
“Darrien Garcia has had an amazing year this year,” the coach said. “He’s really picked it up on the defensive end this year.”
Both Choteau’s seniors have show great leadership for their younger teammates and Luedtke said he just wants to help them go as far as they can in the post-season.
Last week, the Bulldogs defeated Conrad, 82-45, in a game that started out close and ended up a runaway win for Choteau. Conrad held Garcia to a season low of 12 points, but couldn’t shut down Patton who had 34 points in the win.
On Feb. 11, the Bulldogs played Cut Bank in their last home game of the season and the last ever for the two senior boys. Choteau came out shooting hot and ran up a 49-24 first-half lead. They weren’t as successfully offensively in the second half, putting up 20 points to Cut Bank’s 36, but held on defensively for the win.
Garcia sank 25 points and Patton 28 in the winning effort.
Choteau 22-22-13-25 — 82
Conrad 11-13-6-15 — 45
Choteau — Jonathan Moore 1 0/0 2, Trenton Durocher 3 0/2 7, Wyatt Allen 4 0/0 11, Darrien Garcia 3 4/6 12, Garret Yeager 1 0/0 2, Chuck Willekes 1 0/0 3, Kolby Kovatch 0 2/2 2, Kyler Crabtree 1 5/8 8, Johnny Rappold 0 1/2 1, Sayer Patton 11 4/4 34. Totals: 25 16/24.
Conrad — Acton Snyder 3 2/5 8, Kyle Vandenacre 1 1/3 3, Austin Padilla 0 1/4 1, Bridger Russell 1 0/0 2, Ryan Murack 4 0/1 9, Clint Judisch 3 0/1 6, Damon Baney 4 0/0 8, Bert Paulsen 2 2/6 6, Braedon Hutton 0 2/6 2. Totals: 18 8/26.
Total fouls: Choteau 22, Conrad 24. Fouled out: Crabtree, Murack, Baney. Three-point goals: Durocher, Allen 3, Garcia 2, C. Willekes, Crabtree, Patton 8, Murack.
Choteau 23-26-11-9 — 69
Cut Bank 14-10-18-18 — 60
Choteau — Jonathan Moore 1 1/3 4, Trenton Durocher 1 0/0 3, Wyatt Allen 1 0/0 2, Darrien Garcia 7 6/7 25, Sayer Patton 12 2/5 28, Kyler Crabtree 3 0/0 7. Totals: 25 9/15.
Cut Bank — Reid Berkram 1 0/0 2, Evan Harrell 3 5/6 11, Dawson Matt 0 1/2 1, Seth Ombsberg 6 0/0 14, Jemiah Peveler 1 1/2 4, Kyle Brauhn 10 1/1 22, Jaxon Ray 1 0/0 2, Halsten Beck 1 2/4 4. Totals: 23 10/15.
Total fouls: Choteau 16, Cut Bank 13. Fouled out: none. Three-point goals: Moore, Durocher, Garcia 5, Patton 2, Crabtree, Omsberg 2, Peveler, Brauhn.